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A will is an important end-of-life document that outlines your wishes and last testament to your loved ones. Taking the time to develop a detailed will is a good way to eliminate uncertainty for your family if you become incapacitated or die. The probate court exists to settle the legal issues surrounding deaths in the community.

In most cases, a will can outline inheritance rules for an individual’s retirement savings, real estate, bank accounts, physical assets, and investments after their death. A will may appoint a trustee who will assume legal ownership of the contents of the deceased’s estate. It may outline how the deceased wants their estate distributed to their relatives. An Orange County probate administration attorney can help you develop a will, revise an existing will, or navigate the probate process in will-related matters.

While everyone plans on creating a will or trust, not everyone does it before they die. The children or heirs may wonder what happens if there is no will or trust. The short answer is that the State of California has a plan for you called “intestate succession”. Who inherits depends on if the decedent was married and if the decedent had separate property, community property or a combination of the two. You should have a good Probate Administration Attorney to advise you throughout the probate process. My office is in Anaheim, California and I offer free consultations regarding the probate process.

Property by Intestate succession is distributed as follows:


The decedent’s community property goes to the surviving spouse. The decedent’s separate property is distributed as follows:

1.The surviving spouse receives all of the separate property if the decedent is not survived by issue (can include children, grandchildren, etc), parents, brothers, sisters, or children of a deceased brother or sister.
2.The surviving spouse receives one-half of the separate property if the decedent left only one child, or issue of a deceased child.
3.The surviving spouse receives one-half of the separate property if the decedent had no surviving issue, but left parent(s) or their issue (brothers or sisters of decedent). The other half goes to the parents or their issue.
4.The surviving spouse receives one third of the separate property if the decedent left more than one child. The other two-thirds is divided among the children.
5.The surviving spouse receives one-third of the separate property if the decedent left one child and the issue of one or more deceased children. The other two-thirds goes to the one child and to the issue of the deceased children.
6.The surviving spouse receives one-third of the separate property if the decedent left the issue of two or more deceased children. The other two- thirds goes to the issue of the two or more deceased children.
7.If there is no taker under any of the above provisions, the intestate estate passes to the state of California.
8.If there is no taker under any of the above provisions, the intestate estate passes to the state of California.


1.To the decedent’s children.
2.If there are no children or other issue living, to the decedent’s parents.
3.If there are no living parents, the estate is distributed to the brothers or sisters
4.If there are no brothers or sisters, the decedent’s grandparents will inherit the estate.
5.If there are no living grandparents, to the uncles and aunts, and if there aren’t any, then their issue-the cousins.
6.If there are no cousins, the estate is distributed to next of kin in equal degree meaning more distant cousins.
7.If there is no taker under any of the above provisions, the intestate estate passes to the state of California.

Intestate succession is rather restrictive. Because of this, handling the probate process without a will can become a tedious and time-consuming ordeal. Relatives, beneficiaries, and all other parties with claims to the decedent’s estate could potentially contest the probate process. Intestate succession in California is a difficult issue for several reasons.


One of the first challenges to overcome when dealing with California probate laws is the fact that California is a community property state when it comes to marriage and divorce. When a spouse dies, state law dictates that their property should become the property of their surviving spouse. However, this only applies to what would qualify as community property while the spouse was alive. Anything that qualifies as community property would go to the surviving spouse, while all of the deceased spouse’s separate property would undergo the process of intestate succession.

Another common problem with intestate succession is that when a person dies without a will, someone needs to assume responsibility for managing their property and affairs until probate begins. Typically, a will names the personal representative. This is the person who will act on behalf of the writer of the will upon their death. When there is no will, it’s easy for a family to begin arguing over who should have the responsibility of acting as the deceased’s personal representative. If no one person can assume this task without objection from other family members, it will likely fall to the California probate court to appoint a personal representative for the deceased.

Estate debt administration may also complicate intestate succession proceedings. If a deceased individual left behind debts, state law typically dictates those debts must be paid from the deceased’s estate. However, if the deceased held any debt jointly with a spouse or other relative, that individual would assume responsibility for the debt.

Perhaps one of the most troubling parts of the intestate succession process in California is that without a will, major decisions concerning the estate of a deceased individual rest in the hands of the court, not the family of the deceased. Avoiding intestacy is one of the most important benefits of developing a detailed will sooner rather than later.


Approaching the probate process when there is no will for the deceased is no easy task. Probate involves lengthy and tedious litigation, difficult conversations with relatives, and significant emotional stress. Attempting to navigate the probate process without an attorney is extremely difficult. You may not know when you have the right to contest a relative’s suggestion or offer a dispute of your own.

A probate attorney can not only help you develop a will of your own to avoid intestate succession problems but also help if your loved one died without a will. Your Orange County probate administration lawyer can provide you with peace of mind while guiding you through the probate process. An attorney can answer questions you have about the proceedings, help you gather physical evidence for probate court if necessary, and identify potential issues with your probate case.

Remember, there is minimal room for argument when it comes to intestate succession. When there is no will in place, many property distribution determinations will rest with the court. Your Orange County probate administration attorney can provide additional assurance that these proceedings will unfold legally and properly, and they will be available to answer your questions throughout the process.


If you are ready to speak with an experienced Orange County probate administration attorney, the team at the Law Office of Christopher P. Walker is here to help. My team and I have years of experience handling difficult probate cases, assisting in the development of comprehensive wills and trusts, and have handled complex questions regarding intestate succession and the variables that often come into play during probate proceedings. We have the skill and experience to provide the representation you need. Contact our firm today to schedule a consultation with a reliable Orange County probate administration lawyer.

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